Hello…My dog, who is now 1-1/2 has started barking at bedtime. In the past, we have let her sleep on her dog bed downstairs and we retire to the second floor. This worked until 1 month ago when she started barking at the gate at the bottom of the stairs. This can go on for an hour. What should I do? ~Mary T.
It sounds like you’re in a noisy puppy predicament! Before I get into the explanations, let me say barking is as natural for a dog as yelling for us.
So you say your 1.5-year-old puppy (older puppy) has just begun barking, where she hadn’t before. I’ve never raised a young pup that would bark incessantly either; not until they reached young adulthood. It almost seems they begin barking with confidence! If you’re looking at a behavioral training approach, you’ll have to understand why she is barking exactly.
Possibility One: Barking can become a learned behavior if your pup figures out she will eventually get what she wants. There is little difference between a puppy barking at the gate downstairs for an hour and a puppy whining inside her crate for an hour because she doesn’t like the confinement- if that is the reason.
This is only one possible answer, but the training method would involve ignoring her continuously until eventually she figures barking is useless; she won’t get what she wants. If this is the case, someone would have likely given in and let her upstairs at one point.
Possibility Two: She is in some sort of physical pain, or frightened about something at night. She may become extra anxious at night when alone, while your company provides comfort. Increased anxiety in the evenings or when secluded tends to be more common in aging dogs, but consider speaking with your veterinarian next checkup just to rule out any possible medical causes.
Your vet might suggest medication to assist her sleeping, but try to exhaust all other avenues before going that route with a puppy.
Possibility Three: Barking, or increased alertness, is a very common trait in her breed (depending on her breed). For example, Shetland Sheepdogs, several Collies, or Great Pyrenees were selectively bred for their alertness. Most owners will tell you they will bark at absolutely anything unusual they don’t like. Your girl might also have a very high prey drive, although this might not be your case if she just barks at the stairwell.
The solution here would be to gently acknowledge any distraction (while trying to limit any possible distractions), showing your girl you have everything in control, you’re perfectly calm, and there is nothing to worry about. I can’t guarantee she will stop if this is the reason.
Without knowing your dog or particular situation, it sounds like you just need to remain calm and ignore her (or try to) until she learns she can’t get what she wants by barking. Don’t acknowledge it, and eventually, the barking should stop as she gains comfort in her solitude.
You might also compromise, and make room for her crate (assuming you’ve crate trained her) in your bedroom. If you do that, it may be even more difficult to get her to stay downstairs alone.